There are still a few reasons for the Tories to be cheerful - GulfToday

There are still a few reasons for the Tories to be cheerful

Sean O'Grady


Associate Editor of the Independent.

Nigel Farage

Nigel Farage

Being a compassionate fellow, and even though I’ve never voted Conservative (if that’s a clue), I’m moved by the plight of the party. I know they’re a bunch of mountebanks, cheats and crooks – and occasionally all three can be combined in some of their leading personalities — but at times it feels as though they’re being subjected to a punishment beating. Obviously, many voters feel betrayed by them, not to mention deceived, and many of their scandals, including the latest insider betting affair, are entirely a result of their own venal natures. But come on. They’re being pulped so hard that there may be nothing left by 5 July. You can hear the desperation in their voices as they implicitly concede defeat and beg to be left with enough MPs to mount a decent opposition to the “socialist one-party state”.

The quality of mercy is not strained, so I’d like to cheer them up by offering a few reasons for the Tories to be cheerful. Yes, cheerful. After all, things can only get better... First, forget about Reform UK. They won’t get more votes than you, whatever they say, and they will get only a few MPs. Yes, Nigel Farage will have a base in the Commons, but he’ll make a poor parliamentarian and is far too lazy to take it seriously. He’ll be bored, and he and the rest of his small collection of fruitcakes will argue with each other, drop endless gaffes, and split, as their predecessors in the European parliament did, and as the hard right always do.

They’re a fractious bunch at the best of times, and they’ll be bitterly divided on whether they want to join a changed Tory party, merge with it, or destroy it. Hold your nerve, take them on for a change, and stay focused on the middle ground, and you’ll have a chance of getting back into power in a few years. Indeed, that may happen as soon as the next election. This election will prove what has been true for some time, which is that the voters are less tribal and more volatile than ever. In contrast even to, say, the 1990s, there must be very few people out there who can say they always vote for the same party, even in general elections, and never abstain. The Conservatives — not the Liberal Democrats, or Farage’s virtual party — are the only plausible alternative government. If people are eventually disillusioned with Labour, then they’ll really have no other choice.

Will the Starmer administration become unpopular? You bet (if you’ll pardon the expression). There are very tough times ahead, and it’s fair to say that, one way or another, an organised Tory opposition can make the best of them. Rachel Reeves always says she won’t need to raise taxes for anything that is in the Labour manifesto. Correct. That just leaves the mass of expensive problems that aren’t mentioned in the manifesto. In no particular order, they are: annual NHS winter crises (for which they will resort to “sticking plasters”, just like the Tories did); some sort of crunch in adult social care, probably linked to the widespread financial crisis in local authorities, which will need cash injections; the collapse and subsequent financial rescue of some universities; a hurried ramping up of defence spending; and persistently slightly high inflation, which will keep interest rates higher than ideal.

As for growth, how they’re going to make the UK the fastest-growing economy in the G7 is at best unclear (especially as Reeves can’t exercise any control over how quickly France, Italy, Canada, America, Japan or Germany expand). There will be much for a skilful opposition to exploit. Starmer hasn’t abolished the electoral cycle.

The Tories also ought to view their imminent slaughter as an opportunity. Losing the experience and wisdom of Liz Truss, for example — perfectly acceptable. Would they really miss the leadership skills of Suella Braverman? The popular appeal of Jacob Rees-Mogg?

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